Referee Michael Oliver proved to be the influential figure in a pulsating first half at the Emirates Stadium as he turned down no more than four penalty claims between the two sides.
Oscar was involved on two occasions as Hector Bellerin and David Ospina brought the Brazilian down in the area, before former Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas was booked for simulation and Gary Cahill was adjudged to have not blocked Santi Cazorla’s shot with his arm.
Didier Drogba replaced Oscar at the interval after the midfielder showed signs of concussion following his collision with Ospina, but he did little to ignite a Chelsea side who seemed content with a point.
Mesut Ozil and substitute Danny Welbeck spurned glorious chances in the closing stages to hand Arsene Wenger his first victory over a side managed by Jose Mourinho, but Chelsea held on to end Arsenal’s eight-game winning run to move to within six points of their first title in five years.
They will now clinch the title if they follow victory at in-form Leicester City on Wednesday with three points against Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge next Sunday.
Arsenal entered the match knowing anything other than a victory would end their faint hopes of a first title since 2004, and Wenger made four changes to the side which sealed their place in the FA Cup final last weekend.
Chelsea knew victory would hand them the chance to seal with title with victory at Leicester in midweek, and started the game with no recognised striker, as Drogba was dropped to the bench with Eden Hazard leading the attack as the lone front man.
The change of personnel did little to prevent a frenetic start to the game as both sides pushed for the advantage before a string of penalty incidents followed.
Oscar appeared to have his heels clipped by full-back Bellerin on eight minutes as the Brazilian threatened to get in behind the Arsenal defence, but Oliver was unmoved.
Oscar was involved again on 16 minutes when Arsenal ‘keeper Ospina collided with him after he was played through by Fabregas and chipped an effort towards goal. Bellerin cleared the goal-bound effort before play resumed after the Brazilian received treatment for his injuries.
Replays suggested the penalty kick and a red card may well have been warranted by Ospina’s rash challenge.
Fabregas, who made his return to Arsenal after leaving in 2011, received a hostile reception at times, none more so than when he was booked for simulation after a challenge from Cazorla on 23 minutes.
Oliver was in the spotlight shortly after when Cahill’s apparent block of Cazorla’s shot with his arm went unpunished.
Chelsea produced the move of the game when Willian played an incisive pass into his compatriot Ramires before the Brazilian was foiled by Ospina’s smart save.
Oscar was withdrawn at the interval after developing signs of concussion at the break, and Drogba, who has often been the scourge of Arsenal, entered the fray.
The intensity of the game dropped in the second period as Chelsea sat deep and looked to hit Arsenal on the counter. The inclusion of Welbeck late injected some pace in the game as Arsenal produced a late push for the three points.
Ozil and Welbeck failed to steer Nacho Monreal’s cross from the left on target as Chelsea’s defensive unit, as it had done throughout the game, held firm until the end where the final whistle was greeted with wild celebrations by the Chelsea players.
Arsenal: Ospina (7), Bellerin (7), Mertesacker (6), Koscielny (7), Monreal (7), Coquelin (7), Cazorla (7), Ramsey (6), Ozil (7), Sanchez (6), Giroud (7).
Used subs: Walcott (5), Welbeck (6).
Chelsea: Courtois (8), Ivanovic (8), Cahill (8), Terry (9), Azpilicueta (7), Ramires (6), Fabregas (7), Matic (7), Willian (6), Hazard (7), Oscar (7).
Used subs: Zouma (4), Drogba (6), Cuadrado (5).
Man of the Match: John Terry.